Europe is the epicentre of club football, and as such, the UEFA Champions League represents the greatest club competition on the globe. The annual competition gives fans the chance to see their team sized up against the best clubs from across the continent, and for many players, the Champions League is second only to the World Cup in terms of prestige.
All this expectation can make for a truly intimidating atmosphere for players, not least those who are still cutting their teeth in professional football. The Champions League can help make or break many young players, with some retreating into their shells under the weight of expectation, and others flourishing under that pressure.
These emerging starlets should have enough mettle to thrive in this season’s Champions League, and help their club on its path to glory.
After years of hype whilst on the periphery of his club side, Manchester City’s Phil Foden is finally getting a dose of regular first team football, and for most it was well worth the wait.
The “Stockport Iniesta” has been making waves for Pep Guardiola’s team, and this has stretched into City’s European campaign. Popping up with the winner against Olympiacos back in November, it’s clear that Foden’s contributions may prove vital if City are to finally progress beyond the Quarter-Finals of the competition.
Now also featuring regularly for his national side, Foden truly has the world at his feet, and it is up to him to prove his worth to club and country.
According to the bookmakers, Man City are amongst the favourites to win the Champions League for the first time this season and Pep’s men feature heavily in acca tips at sites like WhichBookie, with many punters backing City for a Premier League and Champions League double , However, Phoden and co will really have to step up to the plate for that to happen and the jury is well and truly out on whether City can make it all the way.
Related: Guardiola Hails Foden As ‘Most Talented Player I’ve Ever Seen’
The unlikely star of Bayern Munich’s unstoppable Champions League march last season, the young Canadian will be hoping to assist his club in their defence of Old Big Ears this year.
Still just 20 years old, the left-back announced himself to the world with a memorable display against Barcelona in the quarter-finals last August, with a mazy run to assist Joshua Kimmich and help Bayern on their way to a shock 8-2 victory. From there, few doubted that Bayern would go on to clinch Champions League glory.
Whilst an ankle injury has curtailed his action this season, he should be back to help the German champions in the knockout stages.
Erling Braut Haaland
To already be in the conversation for the greatest ever player from his nation is an incredible achievement for the 20 year old Norwegian.
In last season’s Champions League, Haaland chalked up 10 goals in his first 8 appearances, both at Salzburg and after his move to Dortmund. This season, Haaland will be keen to help Dortmund progress a little further in Europe, after they fell to eventual finalists PSG.
If Europe’s Golden Boy can continue his goal scoring form this season, Dortmund will surely make a welcome return to the later stages of the Champions League.
Having been spared featuring for the full 90 in Barcelona’s humiliation against Bayern last season, Fati may have avoided some of the criticism which fell upon the elder players in the squad. Having only just turned 18, the Spanish international is at vital junction in his development, and the ability to put such trauma behind him will be key to his future prospects with the Catalan giants.
The good news is that Barcelona have bossed their qualifying group this term, and look set to progress to the knockouts in an attempt to right the wrongs of their 2019-2020 campaign. Fati is out until early next year, but as the first under 18 year old to score more once in the completion, Barca will need his attacking prowess if they are to have a chance of bringing European glory back to the Camp Nou.
Frank Lampard must be given enormous credit for the way in which he has helped bring young English players through at Stamford Bridge, and 20 year old right-back Reece James is just one of the beneficiaries of that faith from the Chelsea boss.
James became the youngest Champions League goalscorer for his club last season, and will be integral in their march to Instanbul for the final next year. With Chelsea set to qualify for the next stage of the competition, Europe could be the making of the young England international.
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